I recently bought the latest book from one of my favorite authors. The book is called “The Last Supper on the Moon” and it is by the Pastor of Fresh Life Church, Levi Lusko. He pointed out something that I never really thought about regarding the words Jesus spoke while hanging on the cross. Jesus spoke a total of seven sayings while hanging there suspended in the air. The very first saying, however, was a prayer.
Lusko went on to explain the emotional and physical pain Jesus endured. From the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus underwent such agony and stress, he had the condition Hematohidrosis; to the abuse he endured through the whippings, mocking, and pain of being on the cross. Can you imagine the pain he went through?
Crucifixion kills by suffocation. His hands were pierced with nails, holding him in place as he was suspended in the air. The weight of the body was pulling down on the arms making breathing extremely difficult. Exhaling was fine, but to inhale, one would have to push up against the nails in one’s feet. Not to mention that to push up, meant that the cross was rubbing against the whippings on Jesus’ back. Whippings that’s already left him exhausted enough that he couldn’t even carry the cross to Golgotha.
Yet, Jesus still found the strength to speak. And the first thing out of his mouth was a prayer:
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" – Luke 23:34
I know we may never go through the things Jesus went through, but how often is God the first place you go to? In not only times of happiness, but times of struggles and hardships as well? I will admit, there have been times I would turn elsewhere first. I’ve turned to comfort foods, impulse buying, books, even to my sisters all before going to God. And most of those times, my feelings are those of self-pity. Jesus had every right to feel self-pity, but he did not turn to John or Mary who was there at his crucifixion. He turned to God… and that’s another thing that was brought to my mind.
When Jesus prayed and talked to God, during the most agonizing time in his life, it was not for himself. He did not pray with self-pity on his mind. He prayed for others. He prayed for all those who put him to death. He prayed for the Jewish leaders, the Roman politicians, and soldiers, the bystanders, you, me (As sinners, we played a part in his death as well). He looked at the people responsible for his suffering and prayed for their forgiveness.
Do you do that? Do you pray for those who have wronged you or hurt you?
Or do you selfishly skip them for a day in prayer? Better yet, do you pray for them but in such a way as to play the victim? “Father, guide so-and-so back on the right path, they’ve wronged me and that’s not right.” That person you’re hurt by right now, do they even know what they’ve done? Please tell me you are not giving them the silent treatment! That is so unhealthy in so many ways!
Maybe you’re thinking that you possibly couldn’t pray the way Jesus did while on the cross. That only someone as pure as Jesus could pray that way. But there was another who prayed for others while they were killing him.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord receive my spirit." Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep. – Acts 7:59-60
Stephen was just an ordinary person like you or me. Yet he was able to ask for forgiveness on behalf of those who were in the process of killing him! I want to be like that. Because honestly, if someone were to kill me right now, the last thing on my mind would be to pray for them.
I want to strive to be like Jesus and Stephen. Will you strive for this with me? In times of struggles and hardships, let us turn to God first, instead of turning to a bag of chips or a confidante. And when someone has wronged us, let us pray for them. Always. And not in a way as to play victim, but with genuine concern for them, their wellbeing, and salvation. Make God first, and then others… even others who have wronged us. That is what it means to have the love of Christ living in us. Work on this with me, won’t you?